Andre Leon Talley Goes on to Glory in Grand Style at Abyssinian Baptist Church With Speeches by Anna Wintour, Marc Jacobs & Naomi

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The spirit of the late Vogue editor Andre Leon Talley permeated the pews of the majestic Abyssinian Baptist church on April 29th, 2022, the day of his Memorial Service. While the fashion Icon passed away January 18th, 2022 of Covid related complications, the style glitterati convened days before the Met Gala to reflect upon his contributions to their lives and his lasting legacy.

Talley was known for doing all things in grand style, and the church, replete with towering ceilings and stained glass windows, was befitting of the occasion. A mass choir donning black robes sang songs ranging from Great is Thy Faithfulness to What’s Going On, to Young Gifted and Black, swaying on a stage resplendent with majestic white flowers.

Talley was a member of Abyssinian Baptist church and a man of great faith–a faith that sustained him in the midst of the Chiffon Trenches, his moniker for the world of style. In the introduction of what would be his final book , he wrote, “I went through my life on the strength of hope, and the memory of my ancestors, and the people who showed me unconditional love. It’s a dangerous and perilous tightrope walk, but you must rise to meet the day.”

Those who showed him unconditional love came to his grand finale. Titans in the world of style, including Naomi Campbell, Anna Wintour, Edward Enninful, Pat McGrath, Marc Jacobs, Diane von Furstenberg, Bethann Hardison, Kimora Lee Simmons, Bevy Smith, Emil Wilbekin, Dario Calmese, Audrey Smaltz, Harriette Cole, Tracy Reese, Robin Givhan, Teddy Tinson, Chris Chambers, Zac Posen, Prabal Gurung, Carolina Herrera, Teri Agins, Laquan Smith, Robin Givhan, Veronica Webb, Robert Verdi, Fern Mallis, Carly Cushnie, Giovanna Battaglia, Derek Blasberg, Paula Wallace, Jay Alexander, Claire Sulmers, Law Roach, Kerby Jean-Raymond, Anifa Mvuemba, along with icons in adjacent industries including Martha Stewart, Gayle King, Steve Stoute, Touré, Sandra Bernhard, and Paul Wilmot gathered to honor the legacy of a man who was frequently called “Larger than Life.” Talley, with his fierce and fearless energy, brought people together after his untimely passing, assembling souls across socioeconomic, class, and cultural backgrounds. While he was ‘the only one’ in many rooms for many years, his memorial united a diverse range of people, showing that humanity can exist, even in the playground of The Devil Wears Prada.

Talley had no immediate family—no children, brothers, or sisters, and his parents, and beloved grandmother, Bennie Francis Davis, have long passed away. While his 2nd cousin, Brian Nunn, spoke on behalf of Talley’s biological family, most of the memories shared were from fashion industry friends who became family.

Anna Wintour choked up when she spoke of Talley crossing the Atlantic to be with her for her mother’s funeral. Her husband and children were stranded in a blizzard New York, but Talley made pains to be there for his co-worker turned sister. Wintour has been described as an Ice Queen, but her cool veneer melted as she held back tears remembering ALT’s bombastic friendship. Naomi Campbell described him going to Lagos, Nigeria for Arise Fashion Week, and how he was treated like royalty, with helpers bending at his knees as he sat in a wheelchair. Marc Jacobs laughed at a story of having a small Thanksgiving dinner in Paris for 20 people, including Andre. Bethann Hardison detailed that they kept each other’s secrets (and riffed that she was all about health and Talley liked to eat!). Fashion can be a cold, vicious place. But for a moment, on a sunny Friday morning in Harlem, hearts and minds were aligned, celebrating the spirit of a man who was and represented so much more than style. He represented strength in the face of adversity. Ascension against incomparable odds. Calm cool through trials by fire. Arrogance. Forgiveness. Luxury. Love.

And as Talley said on the last page of his final book, “I always wanted love.”

He received an overwhelming amount during his memorial service. And may that energy of togetherness, love, and unity be his lasting legacy. It’s deeper than fashion. It gives us life.

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